From Goals to Options to Decision Making

Articulating goals can be scary and overwhelming. Especially big lofty goals that keep us up at night or goals that we put off for years by telling ourselves, “Maybe someday. Maybe someday.”

Even when you can articulate a goal, figuring out how to move forward on it can seem impossible. It’s so charged with emotion and failure-issues and dark and twisty-ness, that it can be hard to see it for what it is: a beautiful idea that deserves attention and clarity.

There are tools that can help you navigate that dark and scary territory and move toward the sun! These tools take you on a three-part journey: Goal Setting, Generating Options, and Decision Making.

For Goal Setting, Zig Ziglar has a framework that asks us to identify a goal, parse out why pursuing this goal would be beneficial, name the obstacles that we perceive are holding us back, and identify people who we need to work with to move toward our goal. This framework helps you untangle the complexity of naming a goal for yourself so that you can articulate a path forward.

There are valuable sub-lessons in this framework as well. Like how social goal-setting is even if it’s a goal that you are setting for yourself. And that when you are social you have to be a good listener in order to strengthen your relationships. And you have to know how to ask for help and not be defensive when you receive feedback. It’s all of a piece!

Once you identify a goal for yourself, the next step (and one that is often overlooked) is to generate multiple options for moving forward.

For Generating Options, you can use the Business Model Canvas as a tool for Idea Generation. Because now that you have a framework for setting a goal, the next skill to develop is to learn how to create many options for getting there. Why create so many options and not just one or two? Because with each option you create for yourself, you increase your chances of finding the right one. It’s like a photographer taking a picture for the front page of the New York Times. Do they go out and take one or two pictures and call it a day? Hell no. They take dozens or hundreds of pictures and with each picture they increase their chances of finding that killer shot.

Now that you’ve generated so many options on how to move forward, how will you decide which path is best?

For Decision Making, there are a series of questions generated by Seth Godin and his team that are helpful. Because now that you’ve articulated an ambitious goal and have generated a lot of options for moving forward, you have to face the scary part, the part that makes it real like, “Holy Sh*t, I’m actually going to pursue this thing.” That part is deciding how to start.

The first two steps toward figuring out how to start are about giving yourself permission and encouragement to start. To do this, you can identify the change agents, the things that help you see that this the right time to make this decision. And then you can identify distractions, the things that are getting in your way like ruminating over sunk costs and or other things that are out of your control.

From there you get to be more rational, you get to examine and analyze the array of options that you’ve created for yourself. You do this by quantifying the odds and payoffs for each option that you’ve created. This helps you evaluate the risk associated with each option. The level of risk you chose is personal and situational and will be different for different decisions you make throughout your life. For some decisions, it’s best to “go big or go home.” For others, it’s best to “think big and start small.”

Setting goals and figuring out the best path forward can be terrifying and so overwhelming that we decide to do nothing, to put it off. But if there’s a decision or a goal that’s been gnawing at you, that keeps returning, I encourage you to bring it out into the light and run it through this process. Because it’s likely that that good idea or lofty goal that you keep pushing back, that you keep avoiding to pay attention to, is actually your calling.